Thursday, September 30, 2010

Peasant Potatoes

This dish was inspired by the Peasant Potatoes of Le Peep, one of our favorite breakfast places as a family. We've always been happy with their speedy service and tasty, satisfying food. (Check this link for locations and the menu ) As a potato lover, the one thing I always look forward to eating at Le Peep, more than anything else on my plate, is their peasant potatoes which they serve in place of hash browns. Below recipe is just my home-made version that I enjoy when I can't go to Le Peep.

Ingredients: (Serves 4)
  • 2-4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon Mc Cormick Grill Mates Garlic & Onion Medley Seasoning

    • You need a large skillet with its own lid. Melt the butter in the skillet over medium-high heat.
    • Add the potatoes and mix to cover evenly with butter.
    • Sprinkle the seasoning and mix to cover the potatoes evenly with seasoning.
    • Saute them a few minutes over medium-high heat, until they develop a nice thin crust, but are not burned. Turn the potatoes if necessary with a plastic or wooden spoon to saute evenly.
    • Lower the heat to low and put the lid on. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, but not falling apart.

    Additional notes:
    This recipe makes 4 side servings (or just 2 servings, if you like potatoes as much as I do..:)). But as the picture shows, I would also enjoy them as a main dish with a big dollop of plain yogurt. Le Peep serves them with sour cream.

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Turkish Rice Pudding (Sutlac)


    Puddings and custards may seem like simple desserts, but, in my opinion, they actually require precise recipes and experience, and have their own magical and comforting taste. Learning how to make them properly has been and still is a challenge for me.

    But I believe I got this one right. This is a traditional Turkish pudding called Sutlac which you can always find at traditional diners in Turkey. Some say this name is a combination of the words Sut=Milk and As=Food. Others say it is a combination of Sut=Milk and Ilac=Medicine, meaning it is so good it works like a medicine for you. It is a light dessert that is easy on your digestive system.

    Both my family and I enjoy this recipe which I obtained from another food blog called Binnur's Turkish Cookbook. Binnur is a great lady, you should definitely check out her blog for traditional Turkish recipes, because they work. I believe she slightly revised her recipe which you can find within this link , I'm just going with her previous version here:

    Ingredients: (Serves 6-8)

    • 1/3 cup rice, washed and drained
    • 1 1/2 cups water
    • 4 1/2 cups whole milk
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 3 tbsp cornstarch or rice flour
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla powder
    • Pinch of salt
    • Ground cinnamon, for sprinkling (optional)


    • Put rice and water in a pot, bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 25 min. Drain rice and put back into the pot.
    • Add 4 cups of the milk and sugar to rice and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
    • Meanwhile dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining 1/2 cup milk (milk should be cold) and gradually add to the boiling mixture, stirring constantly.
    • Lower the heat to medium low, add salt and vanilla and simmer for 15 min, stirring frequently.
    • Pour the pudding into serving bowls, let them cool down to room temperature, then put into the fridge to chill for at least 2-3 hours. Serve cold with a little sprinkle of cinnamon.

    Additional notes:

    Keep the pot uncovered after adding the milk, milk can very quickly expand and boil over.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Potatoes with Ground Beef (Kiymali Patates)

    Next time you want to eat potatoes, instead of having them as a side dish, enjoy them as a main dish, as in this potato stew cooked with ground beef. This dish also goes great with rice pilaf or plain cooked pasta on the side. (In fact, if you cut the potatoes a bit smaller you can also use this stew as a pasta sauce - I would recommend it with farfalle pasta.)

    Ingredients: (Serves 4-6)  
    • 6 oz. ground beef (preferably 80/2)
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or butter
    • 6 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes
    • 3 (heaping) tablespoons tomato paste
    • Salt
    • Ground black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon vinegar
    • Plain yogurt for garnish (optional) 

    • Heat 1 tbsp. vegetable oil or butter in the pot. Add diced onion and ground beef. Breaking up the ground beef and mixing it with diced onion, saute over medium-high heat until onion is translucent and ground beef is no longer pink.
    • Add the tomato paste and 1 cup hot water, mix lightly to dissolve the paste in water. Add the potatoes, salt (I personally put 1 teaspoon salt), pepper and vinegar (vinegar is added to prevent the potatoes from breaking up and getting mushy as they cook).
    • Add 2 more cups hot water and bring to a boil over medium heat (pot half-covered with the lid). Lower the heat to medium low (or low, depending on the burner you use) and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender (but not falling apart). Add more water along the way, if necessary (Remember: This is a stew, it should not be a dry potato dish).
    • Enjoy with a dollop of plain yogurt. (And why not have a slice of toasted bread on the side to pick up that tomatoey, beefy sauce from the bottom of the plate ?:))

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Olives: A tree... A fruit... Its golden oil... And a lovely cuisine...

    There is something about an olive tree that is so admirable and respectable, you can't help but love it, just purely love it. With its grayish-green little leaves, its bountiful olives, its wavy stem and branches, each olive tree is like a beautiful statue, a symbol of the Mediterranean history and nature. As we drive south along the Aegean Sea and the first olive trees start to appear on the side of the road, my heart just skips...

    Olives are a very important ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. Besides using them in appetizers and salads, I just cannot imagine a breakfast table in Turkey without olives, and a meal without olive oil.

    There is nothing like olive oil to especially bring out the flavors in vegetables. I do not only mean combining olive oil and veggies in salads, there is a separate and very important section in Turkish and Greek cuisines for olive oil dishes (vegetables or beans cooked "in" olive oil). I would recommend to anyone who does not like certain vegetables to try to cook them that way. The "wonderful" combination of olive oil and vegetables may change your taste buds forever. That is why cooking in olive oil is a true tribute to vegetables, the "wonders" of the nature.

    Baked Pasta with Bechamel Sauce

    This rich pasta recipe is originally from Giada De Laurentiis, one of my favorite chefs, with a few adjustments of my own, and what I call "my kind of macaroni and cheese". You can really taste the goodness of bechamel sauce in this dish. It is always full-proof and so soul-satisfying, the only problem you will have is to resist another serving.

    Ingredients: (Serves 8)
    • 1/2 pound ground beef (preferably 80/20)
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces)
    • 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 4 cups of whole milk
    • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
    • 1 pound dry short cut pasta
    • Salt
    • Ground black pepper

    • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
    • Heat 1 tbsp. vegetable oil in a skillet. Add diced onion and ground beef. Breaking up the ground beef and mixing it with diced onion, saute until onion is translucent and ground beef is no longer pink over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
    • In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Always stirring, gradually add the milk and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg, 1/2 cup parmesan, black pepper and salt (I personally add 1 teaspoon salt). Set aside.
    • In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for about 5 minutes. (The pasta will cook further in the oven in the bechamel sauce.) Drain the pasta in a colander and return to the pot. Add the sauteed ground beef and pour in the bechamel sauce and mix well until all the pasta and the beef are coated with the sauce.
    • Pour the pasta into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Smooth out the top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup parmesan. Bake in oven for 25 minutes, until bubbling and the top is golden brown.

    Additional points:
    • You can use any type of short cut pasta for this dish, but I find that penne works the best.
    • You can definitely substitute whole milk with 2% or 1% milk, they work just as well (not skim milk, though, you need some fat!).
    • I use ground beef sauteed with onion, since where I come from this was a staple of the cuisine, but you can use any kind of meat or deli meat. Making this dish with only beef or chicken flavored sauce does not cut it for me, you need the flavor and the bite of real meat.
    • Never skip nutmeg when making bechamel sauce, nutmeg is what makes this sauce even more special.